LONG BRANCH — Conversion of the former Gregory School into 117 senior housing units was influenced by the historic designation of the historic school building.
“It was unique because we were taking an existing structure — and remember it is historic so it is rehabbed different than going into a normal shell and just reconfiguring the entire thing,” said Tyrone Garrett, executive director of the Long Branch Housing Authority (LBHA).
“It affected how we rehabbed the school itself, but also how we built the other annex building that is attached to it. That had to built and designed in a way where it would not interfere with the historic nature of the Gregory School.”
Because the former elementary school is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, certain components of the building — the auditorium, water fountains, chalkboards and classroom doors — were required to be preserved.
The Gregory School Apartments project on Joline and Seventh avenues involved the rehabilitation of two existing buildings and the construction of two new annexes.
The authority officially opened the first phase of the Gregory School Apartments in 2014 while breaking ground on the second phase. The complex provides 117 units of senior housing, with 65 units in the final phase of construction.
According to Garrett, there currently are no vacancies for the first phase of the project, which is open to low- and moderate-income seniors and approximately 20 to 25 units still available in the second phase.
Garrett said the reaction to the Gregory School has been positive so far.
“I think people enjoy it, they really like it, they have their own tenant association,” he said. “They seem to be getting along pretty well and people seem to be interacting and doing things during the week with one another.”
Garrett said while each unit provides modern amenities and there is a communal fitness room and laundry room.
Garrett also said there is space in the annex building that could be used in the future by local senior services organizations.
The completion of the Gregory School Apartments comes on the heels of the completion of Woodrow Wilson Commons, a 173- unit townhouse development on High Street.
According to Garrett, with both the Gregory School and Woodrow Wilson now complete the authority does not have any immediate redevelopment plans in Long Branch.
“We are done, there is no more land to build on,” he said.
The project was funded using approximately $29 million in tax credits awarded to the authority through the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (NJHMFA) to complete the first two phases.
Along with the tax credits, the second phase of the project was funded using $3.9 million in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Disaster Recovery funds through the Fund for Restoration of Multifamily Housing, a federal funding pool designed to build housing in communities impacted by superstorm Sandy.
The Gregory School project has four co-developers: LBHA, authority subsidiary Maestro Development, Conifer Realty and the Metro Co.